The Liberty Christian football team found itself in an unfamiliar position early in its Class 1B regional crossover game Friday — trailing.
The Patriots, ranked No. 1 throughout the season, gave up an early touchdown but quickly righted the ship and destroyed Odessa-Harrington 90-26 at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco.
“It was a little shocking,” senior Tyler Morris said. “Welcome to the playoffs. We took it right back to them.”
That the Patriots did, showing off their diverse offense. They scored on runs, passes, interceptions, play-actions and deep balls.
Liberty Christian (10-0) will face the winner of LaCrosse-Washtucna vs. Almira/Coulee-Hartline in the state playoffs next week. The Patriots beat both teams during the regular season.
On Friday, Liberty Christian did pretty much anything it wanted, closing the game by twice taking a knee rather than scoring again.
“Offensively, we have such a great array of players,” Liberty Christian coach Mike Olson said. “It enables us to do so many things. We can pound the ball, get outside with our speed and throw the ball over the top if they cheat in.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever coached a team that is this diverse on offense.”
Part of that diversity is the ability of quarterback Mike Olson and top receivers Morris and Brandon Peterson.
The trio has played together since seventh grade and seems to be able to read each other’s minds on the field.
Multiple times Olson threw balls up and Morris ran under them for long completions, including touchdowns of 38 and 60 yards.
“He knows I’ll protect him,” Morris said of Olson. “(No.) 17 to (No.) 7 is a connection. We’ve been throwing since middle school.”
Olson finished 9-of-11 for 255 yards and three touchdowns. Morris had six catches for 177 yards and the two touchdowns.
But Morris wasn’t only making plays on offense. He intercepted a pass and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.
“Our speed and playing as a team has been key,” Morris said of the defensive unit. “Knowing your responsibilities and making big plays.”
The Patriots defense did have some issues with Odessa-Harrington running back Sam Schafer, who scored on two long touchdown runs. At the same time, the Knights’ ability to put points on the board and move the ball at times was a welcome sight to a Liberty Christian team that rarely has been challenged this season.
“It was a wakeup call,” coach Olson said. “It was a good game for us. A lot of our kids had to play four quarters.”Running back Reace Howard rushed for 161 yards on 10 carries with four touchdowns.
Now, the Patriots enter uncharted territory — the state playoffs.
It’s the first time for this group of players to be in the state playoffs. Liberty Christian also is two wins away from playing for the state title in the Tacoma Dome in early December.
“We are ready to see if we can make some noise,” Morris said.
If Friday was any indication, they will certainly do that.
Odessa-Harrington 8 6 6 6 — 26
Liberty Christian 24 34 24 8 — 90
OH—Sam Schafer 2 pass from Justin Hunt (Cade Weber pass from Hunt)
LC—Reace Howard 7 run (Howard run)
LC—Brandon Peterson 17 pass from Mike Olson (John Lesser run)
LC—Howard 25 run (Olson run)
LC—Tyler Morris 38 pass from Olson (run failed)
LC—Morris 43 interception return (pass failed)
LC—Morris 60 pass from Olson (run failed)
LC—Lesser 26 run (Olson run)
OH—Schafer 80 run (pass failed)
LC—Howard 10 run (Howard run)
LC—Howard 51 run (Peterson run)
LC—Taylor Lindquist 5 run (Howard run)
OH—Markus Smith 45 pass from Hunt (run failed)
LC—Evon Branton 12 run (Lesser run)
OH—Schafer 61 run (pass failed)
LC—Lindquist 39 run (Branton run)
Rushing—Odessa-Harrington, Schafer 16-133, Hunt 10-10, Markus Smith 4-0, team 1-(-15). Liberty Christian, Howard 10-161, Lesser 5-112, Lindquist 4-60, Branton 4-31, Connor Mote 2-14, Peterson 1-11, Olson 1-0, team 2-(minus-2).
Passing—Odessa-Harrington, Hunt 6-14-1—75. Liberty Christian, Olson 9-11-0—255.
Receiving—Odessa-Harrington, Cade Weber 2-26, Smith 2-48, Schafer 2-1. Liberty Christian, Morris 6-177, Peterson 2-30, Lindquist 1-48.
Sacks—Odessa-Harrington, none. Liberty Christian, Timmy Koglin 1.5, Cody Daniels 1.5.
Interceptions—Odessa-Harrington, none. Liberty Christian, Tyler Morris 1-43.
Fumble recoveries—Odessa-Harrington, none. Liberty Christian, Branton 1-0.
First downs—OH 8, LC 19. Fumbles-lost—OH 1-1, LC 0-0. Penalties-yards—OH 5-32, LC 3-25. Punts-Avg.—OH 4-50.7, LC 0-0.